J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

A Profile of Andrew Craigie

Harvard’s alumni magazine recently ran Anthony J. Connors’s story about Andrew Craigie (1754-1821). He had no real connection to the college, but lived nearby and was crucial in developing the east part of Cambridge.

Connors describes the start of Craigie’s career supplying the Continental Army with medicines and medical supplies:
The son of a Scottish ship captain and his Nantucket wife, Craigie attended Boston Latin, and by April 1775 had gained sufficient pharmaceutical experience to be appointed apothecary of the Massachusetts army. After tending the wounded at Bunker Hill, he was introduced to Samuel Adams as “a very clever fellow,” and his name came to the attention of General George Washington; he was commissioned Apothecary General in 1777.
The Massachusetts Provincial Congress actually gave Craigie his first appointment in the spring of 1775. At the time he was only twenty-one years old, and I’d love to know what connections he had to get that important and lucrative post. Washington never met him during the siege of Boston, or at least didn’t remember him when he wrote a letter a few years later.

Craigie was on the job for Massachusetts when the Continental Congress decided to take over the colony’s hospitals. The Congress’s first Surgeon-General was Dr. Benjamin Church, who lasted less than two months before he was found to be corresponding with the enemy. The Congress then sent Dr. John Morgan from Philadelphia to take over. Morgan wanted to replace Craigie with his own protégé, but the young man from Boston outmaneuvered and outlasted his boss, enlisting support from the hospital’s young doctors—one of whom was Samuel Adams’s son. Talk about connections!

After the war, Craigie bought the house that Gen. Washington had used as his main headquarters in Cambridge. He expanded it, entertained lavishly, and started to invest in local real estate. Connors continues the story:
Craigie’s development of East Cambridge left an indelible mark. With partners, he secretly bought up 300 acres around Lechmere Point: farms and marshland became a vibrant residential and industrial area, especially after Craigie persuaded Middlesex County authorities to relocate the county court from Harvard Square to a new Charles Bulfinch building in East Cambridge. In 1809, he and his associates completed construction of Craigie Bridge, connecting Cambridge to Boston. His rerouting of roads to steer traffic toward his toll bridge did not enhance his popularity.
But then everything came crashing down. Read Connors’s story for the rest.

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